ph of peat moss?

celestial(Zone-Enabled)January 1, 2009

I'm having trouble finding an estimated ph for peat moss. Can anyone help w/ an approximate number or range?

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Canadian sphagnum peat moss has a pH of around 4.5. This may vary but that is the number on the bag in my garage. Sphagnum peat moss has about 0.88% nitrogen and a C:N ratio of 48.

Here is a link that might be useful: Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Association

    Bookmark   January 1, 2009 at 12:35PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

There are other peat mosses besides sphagnum that are a bit more broken down .....10% "dirt". These are likely a little higher in ph. There is a bog not far from me and I find this moss useful.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2009 at 1:11PM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

Sedge peat often is closer to neutral in pH than sphagnum moss and when exposed to air and aerobic bacteria tends to decompose much more quickly than sphagnum moss.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2009 at 10:35PM
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I have seen numbers that range from 3.5 to 4.6 for peat moss and even the Canadian Peat Moss Association says that peat moss has no nutrients. What anyone using peat moss will find is that when incorporated into soil peat moss will require the addition of other nutrient sources or the plants growing there will show signs of nutrient deficiencies just as when you add any other type of high carbon material into the soil.
Peat moss is a non renewable resource and for many people there are other, better materials readily available often for less money. People with a vested interest in selling you peat moss will tell you that this is a renewable resource. but if it takes even just 100 years to make 1/4 inch of peat moss that is not sustainable.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 7:10AM
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No, it's renewable in North America and is managed pretty well by the pros in Canada IMHO. It's managed in such a way that regrowth is fast. (That said, I use mulched mowed leaves instead of Canadian peat in my lawn/garden.)

But Kimm is correct when he says peat moss doesn't have much, if any, nutrients.

It's strictly organic matter and the ph averages about like Kimm and Cowgirl have posted from my reading.

Although it's renewable, I think leaves are better stuff IMHO. More nutrients and free! And talk about renewable!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 9:28AM
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Now I didn't do the lab work myself, I am relying on the people who wrote this item to have done it correctly. See Table 1. Nitrogen levels and C/N ratios of commercial composts available in Honolulu in 1994 in the reference.

A nitrogen percentage of 0.88 is not a commercial fertilizer but it does represent a nutrient level of a typical compost. So to say that it does not have ANY nutrients is incorrect.

The anti peat moss sentiments originated in Great Britain where there is a greater pressures on a more limited resource. This is not the case in North America. The human species will be extinct long before the peat moss is.

There is no product that can compete with peat moss on quality and price. If there was, I would be buying it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Compost Quality

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 10:44AM
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I find it amusing that a person vehemently opposed to the use of peat moss, would post a link to a site advocating the use of same. (Not only link it, but describe it as "a good source of information"). Most curious.


P.S. Contrary to a certain claim, I do read most of the links. :-)

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 11:09AM
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This may come as a shock to many of you, but I agree with Kimm to an extent. It's not a limited resource in terms of peat for gardening, but it is one in terms of fresh water production. Our use of peat doesn't start at digging it and using it for gardens. It also acts as a natural filter to produce fresh water. Given the fact that fresh water is becoming more and more of an issue it seems we should try using other resources whenever possible. Knowing what we do about peat moss and it's natural benefits when left undisturbed should tell us that maybe we will need it later or that future generations might need it later, especially with obvious climate change occurring. Peat moss fixes a lot of our screw ups from polluting the environment. Since we don't seem to be interested in halting that pollution it stands to reason we should at least avoid harvesting one of the natural protections against it when other means are available. Also, the very harvesting of it is highly polluting. Digging (which takes a ton of energy alone), necessary drainage, shipping over hundreds and even thousands of miles, etc. I mean, if you live fairly close to a peat bog it makes sense to use it. If you don't, it makes more sense to not use it if your concern in adding organics is for your environment and health. My garden produces a lot better than anyone's in my town (not that I'm proud or anything) and I am the only one not using peat moss as far as I know. Not saying peat moss is bad. I'm saying a great garden can be had without it at all. Then again, I'm also one of the people younger than 50 around here tending a garden. It's not a big deal for me to run 4 compost bins instead of run to Walmart and buy a bag of peat moss. I might change my mind when my back screams at me to stop composting so much.

That being said, I bought a bag of peat a few years ago before that stuff dawned on me. I used it in my hydroponics and every time I planted something new I measured the pH first. The pH seems to creep toward neutral over time. After two years, the pH went from 4.2 to 5.3. I'm guessing moisture had to do with that, but I have no idea. I just know it changed. In other words, the only answer you should be using is the one you find for yourself with a pH test.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 11:31AM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

It seems to me that the existing quantity of peat moss is very huge. Why pick on that one? I presume that the existing resources of green sand, lime, and some other"organic" amendments are no more and perhaps a lot less than the peat moss.
Joe, I do agree that there are local amendments that will do the job in many cases, but the arguement of some that peat moss is a nonrenewable resource justs clangs hollow. The arguement that hauling it so far does make some sense.

As Joe magnamuslly said, local peatmoss can be ok...thanks, Joe.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 12:47PM
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Lloyd--I'm confused. I don't see the quote you included anywhere on the thread and the only links I see here are in posts by cowgirl2 (who seems to be in favor of using peat).

Who is the person who is vehemently opposed to peat and posting a link to a site advocating its use and describing it as a "good source of information"?

    Bookmark   January 2, 2009 at 12:49PM
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bpgreen, I think Lloyd got confused on who posted the link. I think he was speaking of Kimm's reference of the Canadian Sphagnum Peat Moss Assoc, but Cowgirl was the one that referenced it. Either way, the point was that Kimm referenced a group that completely defies his position.

Also, I just now looked at that site. Interestingly, there are tons of claims that peat is non-renewable. I've read it in magazines and even received publications on it through the Sierra Club, which I discourage anyone from joining as they are the most hypocritical group I have ever been a part of. More on that in a moment. After looking at that site and seeing what they are doing to renew the bogs and the relatively short amount of time it takes, I think maybe all these environmentalist's claims are less than accurate and quite misleading. It doesn't change the pollution factor of harvesting and shipping, but it would appear that the danger of peat being depleted is overstated by a longshot. I reserve the right to change my opinions when rare moments of clarity hit. That's the what I get for basing my opinion on biased writings, huh?

Since I mentioned the Sierra Club as hypocritical, let me just say that I donated money and in turn received more junk mail requesting further donations from them and affiliates that must have amounted to a higher price than the amount of money I donated. I received paper junk mail DAILY for months despite calling them and mailing much of it back. Yeah, really concerned about the environment aren't they? I know that was completely unrelated, but I felt the need to share.

    Bookmark   January 3, 2009 at 11:04AM
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Any material that takes over 100 years to replace is not a renewable resource. Since many people have access to large volumes of material every fall that can be used in place of peat moss, and is better in every way than peat moss, there is no good reason to spend your money purchasing a non rewnewable product. People living in Arizona may well have to buy peat moss, but no one living where there are an abundance of ddeciduous trees should ever need to.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 7:18AM
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". . .there is no good reason to spend your money purchasing a non rewnewable product."

So you don't drive a car that requires non-renewable petroleum products, Kimm? Good for you. Did you look at the website linked? On the home page there is a section on the restoration of the bogs. Pretty interesting. They claim the peat only takes a few years with their processes. I'm planning to read up on it some more. Keep an open mind and be careful of setting opinions in stone just because lots of people make a particular claim (like that the world is flat). It makes you bias against the possible truth of things and when the truth becomes more obvious you simply look like an idiot for refusing to give it a chance. I speak from experience.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 9:28AM
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We've been down this road many times before and I guess it's just a case of you can't teach an old dog new tricks :-)

If one examines the facts, it is obvious that peat moss derived from Canadian peat sources is indeed a sustainable resource. For one, Canadian peat harvested for horticultural and other purposes represents less than 0.2% of the available peat sources from that area. Only a very small portion of the total acreage of Canadian peat bogs are actively harvested. As a result, new peat is generated at a rate of about 70 times more than what is removed. And it is never harvested to the point where bogs are permanently impacted as far as water quality and the destruction of the ecosystem is concerned. Since one of the common defintions of sustainability is "using methods, systems and materials that won't deplete resources or harm natural cycles", the harvesting of Canadian peat moss more than meets that definition.

And it doesn't take more than 100 years to renew a harvested bog. Restoration of harvested bogs can be achieved in as short a time as 5 years, although 10-15 years is pretty typical. This is accomplished through a very active "farming" process that includes 'seeding' the bogs with sphagnum and fertilizing, much the same as one would farm any other renewable crop. Natural regeneration can happen as well and regrowth of upto 5 feet of peat has been noted in these areas in a period of around 35 years. The Canadian peat industry is very closely monitored by all sorts of governmental agencies and environmental groups world-wide and has become the standard for peat harvesting throughout the world.

Other products found around your homes for free - i.e. the leaves from deciduous trees - do not necessarily provide a similar product for a similar purpose as peat. For one, it is typically the primary ingredient in soil-less potting mixes used for container growing, both by home gardeners and by the commercial nursery trade. Tree leaves just will not work in the same manner. It is also used to adjust soil pH for specific planting requirements - to encourage the growth of acid-loving plants in less than ideal soil conditions. Since peat maintains its acidic properties when other OM loses its over time and is able to retain soil moisture at a higher level than other soil amendments there is a strong argument for its inclusion for various gardening activities.

No one should be made to feel guilty about using Canadian peat products in their garden for whatever purpose they deem necessary. The facts just do not support it.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2009 at 11:01AM
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Hmmm, one year I mixed into the sand where I wanted to plant some blueberries a 3.8 cubic foot bale of peat moss about 8 inches deep in a plot that was 4 feet by 4 feet and has a soil pH of 6.7. One year later I had that plot tested again and the pH was now 7.2, so this begs the question does peat moss lower a soils pH? Has anyone else tested soil after adding just peat moss? Are there any studies that show this to be true (I've looked and have found none) or is this merely an assumption based on the fact that the peat bog is acidic, and the peat moss tests acidic? Since we know that Oak Leaves and Pine needles will not change a soils pH why would we think the peat moss (which has a higher pH) would do the same?
Most of the reasons people give for using this non renewable, unsustainable product defies logic.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 8:20AM
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Wow, so many interesting answers for such a simple initial question and yet, no one really knows why I asked it.

Since this thread has been side-tracked, here's my reaction to the arguments above. I really struggle when I'm presented with an argument such as:

"Don't use X because it is a limited resource."

A much stronger and more useful argument is:

"Use Y instead of X because Y is better for these reasons."

Unfortunately, there are far fewer Y's out there than X's. And, they differ by region so it's important to understand the circumstances.

- Back on topic -

Question number 2:

If I were to use a soil test kit and test ph of a soil heavy w/ peat moss, using a method that requires water, would I only be measuring the ph of the water and not necessarily the peat?

And, what is the realized ph for the plants? that of the water + soil combination?

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 9:30AM
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If I were to use a soil test kit and test ph of a soil heavy w/ peat moss, using a method that requires water, would I only be measuring the ph of the water and not necessarily the peat?

And, what is the realized ph for the plants? that of the water + soil combination?

Use distilled water when testing soil or compost pH.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 10:02AM
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but, I don't water with distilled water?

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 11:50AM
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ajpa(z6 se PA)

You should test with distilled water because it is neutral and won't affect the ph of the soil sample. If you have hard water, frex, it is basic.

From my long ago chem classes, I would guess that you should let the sample dissolve as much as possible first, mix it up a lot, to get a good reading.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 11:55AM
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marshallz10(z9-10 CA)

Sphagnam peat moss is somewhat acid but as it breaks down the pH is likely to go up if the water and the fertilizers are basic in reaction. Most boreal peat bogs are rich in tannins and other acidic chemicals. Washing the peat will remove much of the tannins, a good thing because most horticultural plants would fine tannin-rich environments hostile.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2009 at 9:07PM
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